A revolutionary new method of water heating may be coming to a swimming pool or spa near you.
Scientists from Mutah University in Jordan have recently investigated a photovoltaic heat pump system to heat a large aquatic facility.
Distinct from solar water heating, which uses a water pump to direct water to rooftop arrays of hoses to directly heat water from the sun, photovoltaic energy uses semiconductors to produce electricity, which can then be used to power an electrical device such as a heat pump.
Photovoltaic energy is increasingly being touted as a promising renewable energy source, which, when merged with heat pump technology, can be used as a sustainable and practical substitute for water heating.
Given the country of Jordan’s adoption of its National Energy Action Plans to reach a 30% cut of energy consumption by 2030, relative to its use in 2012, scientists are turning toward renewable sources to sustain the country’s needs.
To that end, in a paper entitled “Energy performance and economics assessments of a photovoltaic-heat pump system,” scientists have recently assessed the energy and economic performance of a photovoltaic powered heat pump system for heating the swimming pools at the Ayla Hotel on the coastal city of Aqaba in Jordan.
In the paper, which appeared in the peer-reviewed journal, Results in Engineering, they propose a photovoltaic solar-assisted heat pump that can create electricity and then heat the water by using heat pump technology. This technology can provide hot water with temperatures that can reach up to 176 °F.
To assess realistic energy savings, the scientists calculated the actual energy costs at the Ayla Hotel, which has an aquatic facility that consists of a family pool, a main pool, and spa, all of which require a significant amount of heat to keep both indoor and outdoor pools warm from fall to spring.
According to the study’s authors, photovoltaic technology combined with heat pumps offer a couple of advantages compared to traditional water heating.
“First, PV (photovoltaic) technology may be used in large, centralized installations as well as tiny, decentralized ones, and its efficiency is essentially unaffected by the system’s size or application. Second, in applications without any energy storage device, the cost of PV electricity can be comparable to the electricity tariff, and even cheaper in big power systems.”
The researcher’s energy and cost assessment were based on a computer simulation of the existing electrical needs of the hotel combined with the installation of a proposed photovoltaic heat pump system, utilizing technology that exists today.
The simulation estimated an annual electricity consumption of 6500 MWh with a total cost of $834,000, (converted to U.S. dollars). The estimated the initial cost of the photovoltaic system is $345,000, while that of the heat pump system is estimated at about $164,000, bringing the total cost to about $509,000, including installation and testing.
They estimate that the proposed photovoltaic heat pump system can save about $262,100 a year from the total electricity bill. That means that that the system will pay for itself (in terms of energy savings) in a little less than two years.
Meanwhile, after 10 years of operations, the profits amassed in energy savings will be $1.89 million.
“A cursory examination of the solar project’s economic factors leads to the conclusion that it is economically justified,” the researchers concluded.
Ayla Hotel, Aqaba in Jordan